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Poster: Mr. Television  (see this users gallery)

Extras aired from July 2005 until December 2007 on The HBO Cable Network..


What happens when a beleaguered "background artist" finally catches his big break? For Andy Millman (Ricky Gervais ), who had just broken through with his own TV sitcom, fame meant a whole new level of humiliation.


Andy was a 40-something actor who gave up his day job to pursue movie fame -- only to find he couldn't land any substantial parts. Undaunted by failure and convinced of his star potential, Andy finally turned the corner when a comedy pilot he wrote got picked up by a British TV network. Despite his many gaffs and foibles, Andy was on his way to fame and fortune...if only he could survive meddling network executives, questionable fans, and the gross ineptitude of his clueless agent, Darren Lamb (Stephen Merchant).


Throughout Andy's latest misadventures there was a reassuring constant: his ongoing friendship with Maggie Jacobs (Ashley Jensen), the perky if none-too-bright actress who continued to slog away as an extra on various big-budget movie sets, all the while searching for a man with two even legs.


Season Two featured appearances by Orlando Bloom (Kingdom of Heaven, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Pirates of the Caribbean films), pop star David Bowie, Daniel Radcliffe (title character for the Harry Potter hits), Coldplay's Chris Martin, Sir Ian McKellen (the X-Men series, The Lord of the Rings trilogy) and flamboyant British radio and TV personality Jonathan Ross.


The first season of Extras earned numerous accolades from critics: "Extras is a winner" (TV Guide), "The pay channel's best half-hour since 'Curb Your Enthusiasm'" (Daily Variety), "wincingly funny... Gervais is an absolute master" (The Washington Post), "hugely entertaining" (New York Sun), "fabulously funny" (New York Daily News), and "*****" (Maxim).


Guests included Kate Winslet, Patrick Stewart, Ross Kemp, Vinnie Jones and Les Dennis. (Winslet and Stewart were both Emmy -nominated for their guest roles.)


A Review from USA TODAY


Extras
(* * *, HBO, Sunday, 10:30 p.m. ET/PT)


By Robert Bianco, USA TODAY


HBO has too many shows about show business, and too many shows that make you cringe as you watch. Still, few are as funny as British import Extras, from The Office's Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant as talented and inventive as anyone in TV in either country. Gervais is Andy Millman, a frustrated actor who can find employment only as "a background artist." He has a best friend who's also an extra (Ashley Jensen) and an agent who's also an idiot (Merchant). And this week, he has a job on a film starring a smut-talking Kate Winslet, who sends up her image in grand style. Though he's playing a smarter, wittier, more self aware character than he did in The Office, Gervais displays the same gift for the social faux pas, and the same inability to extract himself from increasingly improper conversations. Tonight's outing includes jokes about cerebral palsy and the Holocaust. I cringed, but I also laughed. You'll have to decide if one outweighs the other.


An Article from The New York Times


TV Review | 'Extras'
Pretending to Like the Little People


By GINIA BELLAFANTE
Published: February 2, 2007


That species of star known as the celebrity altruist is a creature in whom the British comic Ricky Gervais seems to have absolutely no faith. The actors, directors and rock singers who give money to Holocaust foundations and adopt babies from impoverished places and expound before the United Nations General Assembly on the crisis of African debt these people simply do not figure in his consciousness, one consumed by a brilliantly uncharitable view of fame.



Extras, midway through its second queasy, funny season on HBO, is Mr. Gervais's deft essay on the vainglory of the well known. And it leaves you wondering, in the end, whether Mr. Gervais down deep imagines no real difference between what motivates Clint Eastwood and what drives Vanna White.


Each week Mr. Gervais who writes, directs and stars in the comedy with his creative partner Stephen Merchant, with whom he also worked on The Office for the BBC gets celebrities to appear on the show as themselves. Kate Winslet and Patrick Stewart showed up last season; Coldplay's Chris Martin appears this Sunday in the taping of a public-service announcement, which he tries to exploit to promote his new album.


The celebrities are not meant to be playing themselves; not really. They are there to enact Mr. Gervais's caricature, largely reprising the same dim, self-aggrandizing megalomaniac over and over. Every time they do, they seem to be inadvertently making Mr. Gervais's point for him, because by getting in his game, they are betraying the kind of self-regard that leaves us assuming that they consider themselves exempt from his critique. Anyone who subjects himself to Mr. Gervais's camera must believe that he does not belong to the class of arrogant jerks that Mr. Gervais is making so much fun of.


How do I act so well? Ian McKellen earnestly asks Mr. Gervais's character in a forthcoming episode. What I do is I pretend to be the person I'm portraying in the film or play, he whispers. You're confused. Case in point, Lord of the Rings, Peter Jackson comes to New Zealand and says to me, Sir Ian, I want you to be Gandalf the Wizard, and I say to him, You are aware that I'm not really a wizard.


Mr. Gervais's character, Andy Millman, is an actor who had been making his living as an extra and has seen his fortunes change this season. An even greater misanthropy has accompanied the shift. Andy has managed to sell a workplace comedy to the BBC. He stars in it, and though the network suits have insisted it be stupider than he had ever hoped, he suddenly finds himself among the quasi-famous.


So when he complains to a boy's mother in a restaurant that the boy is way too loud, without noticing first that the boy has Down syndrome, his tactlessness becomes front-page tabloid news. He is ultimately forced to have his picture taken with the child as he gives him an Xbox.


Andy has more money now, but he gives it away only meagerly, and merely for the purpose of small-scale image enhancement. When a homeless man recognizes him on the street, Andy gives him 20. When Andy asks the man what, hypothetically, he might ever say about the exchange to the press, the man responds, I'd say, don't ask Andy Millman for money because he'll only give it to you begrudgingly.


The new conceit Andy as a real television actor gives the show a sharper focus than it had last season and puts Mr. Gervais's talents in the foreground more easily, giving him greater claim to Andy's selfishness and diminishing his abjection.


Abjection, one of the show's favorite themes, is now almost entirely Maggie's to bear, and she bears more than a viewer's comfort level can sustain. Played by Ashley Jensen, Maggie is Andy's closest friend in the world of disrespected extras, a Bridget Jones without the wit, verbal range or ability to attract good-looking bad men.


She is a foil for all the big egos around her, pathetic, but in a different way, because she possesses ambition for nothing. And yet her apathy toward the actors she lets humiliate her leave them courting her approval: celebrities crave recognition even from those they denigrate or barely notice.


In one exceptionally funny episode a few weeks ago, in which Maggie is an extra in a period courtroom drama starring Orlando Bloom, she points out to him that women approach him only because he is famous. There's really little else special about him at all. He disagrees: They're not doing it just because I'm famous. It's my looks as well.


He goes on to explain that other actors don't get nearly as much attention: I'll tell you who gets ignored: Johnny Depp, Mr. Bloom says. On the set of the Pirates of the Caribbean, the birds just walked straight past him: Get out of our bloody way, whoever you are, we just want to get to Orlando.


Mr. Gervais wants to get to the world's Orlandos, and also, subversively, at them.





An article from the S.F. Chronicle


Review: End of HBO's 'Extras' signals great future for Gervais
Tim Goodman


Friday, December 14, 2007


"Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale" will ultimately be known for several impressive elements. First, it's one of the truly great finales to a television series - smart, true to the original vision but creatively challenging; satisfying without being pat or predictable. Secondly, at a full 80 minutes, it's thrilling in its ambition, attaining closure with artistic triumph.


But perhaps most important, Ricky Gervais gives a tour-de-force dramatic performance and serves notice that he has the ability to go beyond comedic genius (of which he surely has buckets) and into the realm of convincing character actor, not unlike Bill Murray, Robin Williams and Jim Carrey.


The "Extras" series finale is painfully hilarious, and Gervais gets ample opportunity to take his Andy Millman character to sadly funny depths. When he needs a truly searing comedic moment, Gervais takes it - and nails it - but it's what he accomplishes in the difficult dramatic moments that is most impressive. Beyond the level of superb television it achieves, the "Extras" finale is a coming-out party for Gervais, as he confidently steps into a broader acting world.


It seems strange to be getting a proper send-off to "Extras" now, more than a year after its 12th episode (two six-episode seasons) ended on HBO. The series was always criminally overlooked by audiences despite raves from critics. It allowed Gervais to be someone other than his iconic David Brent character from the original British version of "The Office," but it also meant that no matter how good it was - and it was fabulously funny while being both delightfully and insightfully cruel - it was never going to be "The Office." If the expectations were lowered, so was the buzz.


And that never seemed fair. "Extras" was one of the precious few funny sitcoms on television anywhere during its run. When it ended there were no tributes. It wrapped up well enough - with a minor but surprising and subtle appearance by Robert De Niro - that gave no indication anything else was coming.


But Gervais and co-writer, co-creator and co-actor Stephen Merchant believed there was more to the story of sad-sack film extra Millman, who caught a break that changed his life. There was something else to mine in the dark side of fame that Season 2 centered on. The 80-minute finale - nearly half a season's worth of material - continues tracking bittersweet notions of getting what you want in life, but enhancing and elaborating on them, allowing Gervais and Merchant to make definitive statements about celebrity and selling out, and the fragile boundaries of friendship.


The premise behind "Extras" is straightforward. Andy(Gervais) is an aging, unsuccessful movie extra who is desperate not only to be glimpsed onscreen but also - God and other jealous extras forbid - to get a speaking part. Andy's best friend, Maggie (Ashley Jensen), is also an extra and, inconceivably, even less successfu. The two platonic friends share a pathetic but lovable plight that makes them endearing soul mates, though they don't quite realize it.


Andy's sad show-business career is being shepherded by Merchant as his incompetent agent. Allowing Merchant to play the buffoon - exceptionally well, by the way - frees Gervais to be less of a comedian and more of a character. Constant failure is taking a toll on Andy, and Gervais expresses this in a nuanced mixture of resigned bitterness and forlorn acceptance. "Extras" has always tempered the growing dourness of Andy's character by having him meet real-life stars - Kate Winslet, Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Daniel Radcliffe, etc. - who savagely skewered their own personas in some of the most daring and laudable self-deprecation you'll ever see.


Perhaps that was the selling point of "Extras" - not only do you get comic genius Gervais, but also hilarious celebrity cameos. And yet, there was always so much more going on. The comedy was painful in the way "Curb Your Enthusiasm" was, but almost always more sophisticated. And plotted better. By the tail end of Season 1, after multiple humiliations, Andy's character catches a break when a sitcom he writes for the BBC gets picked up. Unfortunately, the executives rework it into a hacky, cliche-filled, catch-phrase-laden groaner with heavy soundtrack and Andy wearing a wig and glasses, humiliating his artistic dreams in front of a live audience.


Andy is presented with a dilemma: Get your show made or go back to being an extra. Take the lucky break or take your pride.


Season 2 explored Andy's continuing indignity and coupled it with a new kind of awkwardness: The fictional show-within-a-show was a hit. Andy was miserable (and mocked in public - David Bowie being the highlight), but he was rich and famous.


"Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale" goes 10 or 12 steps further as it picks up about a year or so later. Andy is insufferable. He's outgrown his incompetent manager. And he's using Maggie - whose own career doesn't just remain stagnant, it declines - for convenience.


These notions of fame and money being a corrupting influence and a broken bridge to happiness are not new. But what's impressive is the passion and anger in the tone, and how each actor manages to be roaringly funny and heartbreakingly sad in different turns. Even when, as writers, Gervais and Merchant are forcing your face into a bowl of shallow-celebrity, empty-culture slop, the familiar themes are given real heft by the urgent performances, particularly Gervais'.


This is a dark, mean-spirited but emotional send-off to the series, replete with unexpected dramatic moments. (At the same time, your jaw drops and your knees buckle at the audacious humor from stars such as Clive Owen and George Michael). It's a magnificent end to an underappreciated series, but it's also the beginning of Gervais' second act.



For more on Extras go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extras_(TV_series)


To watch some clips from Extras go to http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=extras+hbo&aq=f


To listen to the theme song of Extras go to http://www.televisiontunes.com/Extras.html and to hear Chris Martin sing go to http://www.televisiontunes.com/Extras_-_Chris_Martin.html
Date: Sat May 3, 2008 � Filesize: 24.2kb � Dimensions: 470 x 270 �
Keywords: Extras: Cast Photo

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